The ‘Juicy Lucy’ School of Glue

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The half pin on the right did not have hide glue applied to the end grain. Note that this photo was taken after the glue had dried but before the joint had been cleaned off.

While at David Savage’s shop, Rowden, a couple years ago we assembled a bunch of dovetailed tool chests using hot hide glue. That’s not weird. What was weird was how some of the students applied the glue.

They brushed the glue on the interior surfaces, knocked the joints together and then brushed glue on the exterior surfaces of the joints.

That was weird to me.

I’ve been in shops all over the world – traditional and modern. And the only time I’ve seen hide glue applied on the outside of a joint is during hammer veneering.

It was a whirlwind two weeks in Devon, and I didn’t get to ask David about that process. But when I came back to the United States, I started fooling around with it myself. During the last couple years I’ve gone back and forth between the two methods both with hot hide glue and liquid hide glue.

In talking with David, he called it the “Juicy Lucy” school of gluing. Sometimes at Rowden, David said they also use the “Sahara”method. This is where you have been successful if a small bead of glue comes out bearing evidence that glue has been used in the assembly.

I’m not a glue scientist, and what I have been doing is not a properly controlled experiment. It’s building furniture. What I have observed is that applying hide glue to the outside surfaces of a joint – especially the end grain – can make a good joint a wee bit better. It’s not a dramatic difference. But the end grain seems to soak up the adhesive and swell a tiny tiny bit.

But wait – doesn’t this affect finishing? Not with hide glue and traditional finishes. Hide glue is transparent to most finishes. So I plane off the exterior surfaces like I normally do (usually a swipe or two with a smoothing plane) and it’s done.

Should you change your gluing technique? Not if you are happy with your results. But if you are a curious person, give it a try and decide for yourself.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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20 Responses to The ‘Juicy Lucy’ School of Glue

  1. Joseph Michalski says:

    Gluing the end grain also hardens softwoods for better smoothing. It helps keep the fibers from smashing over.

  2. Andy Paul says:

    I get pretty sloppy with the hot old brown glue. I wipe everything down with a warm wet cloth to clean it up. the joint is quite damp not wet. This puffs up the wood that may have compressed during the assembly and will fill TINY gaps. Wait for it to dry and finish as you wish.

  3. Rachael Boyd says:

    I will be doing this with my Dovetails and will try on other joints as well.

  4. Quercus Robur says:

    It’s a thing I’ve been doing almost inadvertently whenever I use hot hide glue – since this glue is so easy to remove or plane, I just slosh it everywhere. It does seem to fill up tiny gaps but using it as a gap filler is probably wrong.

  5. Paul Drake says:

    You forgot “jamming in some sawdust along with the glue” on the outside surface. Never did that for stain grade trimwork. Nope.

    • tsstahl says:

      So it was you at my shop window! My dovetails work, but look like crap. I’ve been doing the ‘wood dough’ thing forever. 🙂

  6. On a nice warm day is there any advantage to warming pre-made hide glues (Titebond)? I do so on very cold days just to get the stuff out of the bottle.

  7. smathews8234 says:

    what about dipping the pins or tenons for speed, that hide glue cools off so fast.

    • Andy Paul says:

      The heat is used to penetrate, just slop it on the lowest joint,end grain and chase it up the long grain to the top of the joint. At this stage you have as much time as you need. If a part is drying to fast slop on more glue Slap it together and wipe every thing down with a sponge and a bucket of warm water. I give it two swipes and let it set

  8. I’m a big fan of sizing the contact-surface end grain of dovetails, and I’ll give this method a shot next time I’m dovetailing. I don’t see it mentioned above, but if penetration is the goal I bet a little extra water in the glue would help.

    • Andy Paul says:

      Use the heat. Don’t thin with water or lubricate with water. Keep it full strength as long as possible. Save the water for clean up.

  9. John Hoffoss says:

    Just in case some haven’t heard of it, the term Juicy Lucy refers to a burger (originating in Minneapolis – either Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club depending on who you ask) where a patty is wrapped around the cheese in your cheeseburger, then cooked, resulting in a hot pocket of cheese through the center of your burger, waiting to ooze out and burn your chin with your first bite.

  10. Just in case some haven’t heard of it, the term Juicy Lucy refers to a burger (originating in Minneapolis – either Matt’s Bar or the 5-8 Club depending on who you ask) where a patty is wrapped around the cheese in your cheeseburger, then cooked, resulting in a hot pocket of cheese through the center of your burger, waiting to ooze out and burn your chin with your first bite.

    • Chris F says:

      I was going to say “I don’t know who this Lucy is, but I’d like to meet her”. Your explanation has not changed my mind on that…

  11. franktiger says:

    I do the same, only after reading about sizing the end grain. One time I ran out of liquid hide and used modern glue. The result was my dovetails turned orange from the shellac coming in contact with the modern glue. Lesson learned, keep a plentiful stock of hide glue on hand.

  12. Klaus N. Skrudland says:

    I’m a curious person, so tomorrow I’m gonna have to force my kids to come with me to the shop to buy glue – and then convince my wife to watch them the rest of the afternoon because I’m doing an important experiment in my basement shop.

    • Andy Paul says:

      Just keep the kids. This is a nice safe project to have the kids play with too. No sharp tools and all of ya clean up together, Buy the right stuff and it smell like hot
      dogs when it heats, but don’t taste as good.

  13. I’m calling it Juicy Tighty… I tried it today with Titebond Hideglue warmed just enough to make it about the consistency of Hershey’s chocolate syrup. I’ll report back in…. let’s say 30- 70 years.

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